Monday, August 30, 2010

Supporting American Muslims: The Velveteen Rabbi's "A Gesture of Repair"

American Muslims are having a rough time of it right now.  To say the least.  Domestic terrorism against American Muslims spiked after September 11th, 2001, never dropped back to pre-2001 levels, and has surged again recently. 

American Muslims are afraid of what other Americans will do to them, simply and solely because of their religion.  And that is plain wrong

A lot of non-Muslims have wondered what we can do to support our Muslim neighbors right now.  Rachel at the Velveteen Rabbi offered a heart-warming response to the recent hate crime in a mosque in Queens.  (I first came across the Velveteen Rabbi's work two years ago when I was living in Ann Arbor.) 

I for one am grateful to Rachel and Stu not just for the idea, but also for Doing Something, and for demonstrating that Doing Something is possible.  Tikkun olam is the work of all our hands. 

Blessed be.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What century is this? The Summer's Eve ad in Woman's Day magazine

Sexist bullshit is alive and well.

Just in case you think we've arrived in the post-patriarchy, there's this little tidbit from Summer's Eve brand in Woman's Day magazine.

No, it's not from the Onion.  No, it's not from the 1970s (or the 1960s or the 1950s).  It's from the 2010s.  Here and now.  

Check out the great analysis by dhonig at Daily Kos

And please do let both Summer's Eve (866-787-6383) and Woman's Day (212-767-6000) know what you think of advertising that insults women this incredibly.

Update 8/28/10:  Verified.  I have now seen this with my own two (four?) eyes, and it made me feel all slimy.  It's on page 50 of the October 1, 2010 issue of Woman's Day.  Ew. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is it time for scarf solidarity again?

I've been reflecting over the past few months on my experience as a second-class citizen, socially and legally -- informally and formally -- as a Pagan.  Oh, sure, we technically share the same protections as everyone else under the US Constitution, but it doesn't actually work out that way in reality for Pagans. 

(My "favorite" case in point these days is my colleague Patrick McCollum's experience in CA, and how in the lawsuit McCollum v. California, folks really do make a legal argument that some religions are legally "better" than others, and that folks from certain religions deserve more legal recognition -- and differential access to jobs -- than folks from other religions: specifically, that the First Amendment to the US Constitution applies only to religions that existed at the time of the framing of the Constitution.  Hoo, boy.)  

(And that's not even touching my literal legal second-class citizenship as a lesbian.  (Click here to read some of what I've written about my experience with that in the last year.) 

But over the last few weeks,  I've been reflecting that while I may be a second-class citizen in my own country when it comes to my religion, my Muslim neighbors must be feeling like third-class citizens. 

These reflections started with the brouhaha about the so-called,  non-existent "Ground Zero Mosque."  It's not at Ground Zero, and it's not a mosque.  (For more information, see Park 51's FAQs and the Cordoba Initiative's FAQs.) 

If we look at the things that do exist within a mile of Ground Zero -- of the site of the former World Trade Center in NYC, the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in NYC -- it's clear that too many people in America consider it more patriotic to operate a strip club, or a church, than to operate a Muslim community center -- than to help American Muslims reclaim Islam from extremists.  (Hat tip to Daryl Lang.)

Do we have a problem with the sculpture "And Jesus Wept" at the site of the former Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City?  Even though a Christian extremist was responsible for that bombing?  

And in the discussion of the non-existent "ground zero mosque," American Muslims are been getting treated like crap. 

But, wait!  It gets better!  Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida -- doves being a symbol of peace, remember -- is hosting International Burn-a-Qu'ran Day on September 11, 2010, because "Islam is of the Devil."

Two pieces of good news:  1)  The First Amendment protects their right to burn books, even if it doesn't guarantee them a fire permit.  2)  Other local religious leaders are not taking this sitting down: the Gainesville Interfaith Forum, comprised of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, are hosting a "Gathering for Peace, Understanding, and Hope" the night before.

But let's be honest, folks.  American Muslims are the targets of hate crimes all the time.  We just don't hear about it.  American Muslims, and mosques in America, have had to cope with this particularly since September 11th, 2001, as if all Muslims were responsible for the behavior of a group of extremists.  We don't act as if all Christians were responsible for the behavior of the extremists who were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing.  But we act like all Muslims are responsible for September 11th. 

But wait, you're saying.  I don't act like that. 

Well, what do you do to stop it?  When people bad-mouth Muslims around you, do you speak out against it? 

Personally not blaming Muslims ourselves is no longer enough.  Not in today's political and cultural climate. 

On the radio today, I heard a guest on WHYY's Radio Times talking about how Muslims in America are afraid of violence directed against them personally on the upcoming anniversary of September 11th. 

And that's just wrong. 

No one -- no one -- in this country should be afraid they will be attacked physically because of their religion.  

And that statement brought back memories. 

Of September 11th, 2001 in Philadelphia.  

Of the aftermath.  

Of the bomb threats at my Meetinghouse.  

Of how it felt like my entire workplace, my entire family, the entire world around me, was demanding vengeance. 

Of not knowing where friends, family, and loved ones were -- including folks in the military, folks on commercial airplanes that day, and folks overseas.  

Of threats to bomb Afghanistan "back to the Stone Age."  

Memories of Americans being attacked for being suspected of being Middle Eastern.  

Memories of American Muslim women -- regardless of race -- who wore the hijab, or headscarf, being attacked and harassed, and so either leaving their headscarves at home, or simply not leaving home -- becoming prisoners in their own homes to hate.  

Memories of Quaker women I knew wearing headscarves of some sort in solidarity with the women of Afghanistan and with American Muslim women.  

I came late to scarf solidarity that year, but wore a headscarf for a good month or so -- October?  November? As long as I was led.  I still wore long, full skirts frequently then, and probably looked more Jewish than anything else.  Still, it felt important. 

One co-worker looked at me worriedly and said, "But Stasa, what if people think you're Muslim?"  Exactly, I told her.  "But you're not.  I mean, you're obviously not."  Exactly, I told her.  She didn't get it.  The idea is to make people think, I explained.  She was still nervous for me. 

I have been wondering: is it time for scarf solidarity again? 

I looked up scarf solidarity when I got home today, and found the story of Jennifer Schock's Scarves for Solidarity Campaign originally planned for October 8, 2001; I also found this article from the LA Times

Jennifer did her homework.  She talked to Muslim women.  She called local mosques, Muslim associations, and Islamic centers.  I haven't done any of that work yet.  I have tried to reach Jennifer, but haven't been successful (yet). 

Is it time for scarf solidarity again?  If so, on September 11th, 2010?  Longer?  Coinciding with Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan - ?  (September 9th, this year.) 


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Divining Divinity" -- Bob Patrick at Meadowsweet & Myrrh

I very much enjoyed Bob Patrick's recent post "Divining Divinity" over at Meadowsweet & Myrrh.

What spoke to me about this post? A whole bunch of things.  Rather than go through and analyze and annotate the whole thing, I'll just pull out a few highlights: 

1)  "Belief" vs. "working with," or experience.

"That is a Christian presumption that other religious paths require belief as it does. What of those paths that do not require belief?"

I come face-to-face with this often, with the assumption that a dedicated religious or spiritual life of course requires belief -- and that a spiritual or religious life that is based in belief is by definition superior to one that isn't. 

Recently, I was at a conference that focused on the diversity of Quaker women's theaological experience.  Not our theory, not our thoughts, but our experience: narrative theology was the phrase shared with me with excitement by the conference organizers. 

I was nonetheless yanked up short by how wedded some of the Christian women in particular there were to this assumption about belief. 

"So, if you don't believe in Jesus, but you're here because you're Quaker, but you're telling me -- you're -- a -- Witch -- then -- that means you believe in -- well, not the Devil? -- I guess, if you're -- a member of your -- Meeting -- so -- what, exactly?" 

When it was my turn: "Actually, I would say, You experience the Divine as Jesus, or through Jesus, whereas I experience It as, or through, the grass, the trees, the seasons, Nature, the other women here, animals, all life, the Earth, the Air, the Fire, the Water, the Spirit, the Goddess.  It's not about belief.  It's about experience.  I can go outside and touch.  I can touch you.  I can breathe the air.  I eat food." 

Blank looks. 

It's one thing to come across this attitude from people who operate in a particular theological tradition; but I also get it all the time from non-Pagans who are non-theists and atheists, too.  What gets me is how Judeo-Christian these nonbelievers still are in their thinking and reactions, and how they still try to force other people into that same narrow box they claim to reject. 

2)  "Worship"

The word "worship" has a connotation of subservience rather than one of simply reverence.  It definitely generates the idea that when we gather in worship, we are holding ourselves subservient to that which we worship, and holding that which we worship as superior to ourselves.  As a Feminist Witch, I struggled with this when I when I first came to Quakerism; and something that I appreciated was the discussion in my then-Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice about the roots of the word in worth-ship: what do we hold in worth, in esteem? 

What's more, here's that notion again of not only the separation of divinity from creation, but also of creation at all.  This is so enshrined in Judeo-Christian, and possibly all Abrahamic, thinking, that most folks simply don't recognize the assumption they're making -- much less the religious and theaological ethnocentrism in it. 

This is just not my experience of the Divine. 

Seeing "divinity as totally other and superior to the creation."

Sure, there are plenty of creation myths in Paganism / in different Paganisms.  But if the gods and the world are not separate -- if That-Which-Is-Sacred and That-Which-Is aren't different -- creation isn't linear; it's cyclical.  Personally, I may have a Mother Goddess, but I don't have a "creator."  My relationship with the Earth is to someone who grew me, not someone who made me.  And there's a big difference.  Reverence in connection.  The gods are not outside the world, separate from it: They are the world, the creator and the created. 

In technical terms, we're talking about world-views of immanence and transcendence, and world-views of both.

3)  That conversation!

Why can't I be that articulate all the time? 

Friday, August 6, 2010

On the Prop 8 ruling (Perry v. Schwarzenegger)

Two seemingly-unlikely courtroom bedfellows, David Boies and Ted Olsen, speak with Rachel Maddow just after the federal court decision regarding California's Proposition 8 banning same-gender marriage

(If you've never read Ted Olson's piece "The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage: Why same-sex marriage is an American value," I highly recommend it.) 

For info about the MA court case they refer to regarding the court finding the federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, click here

For the NY Times basic story about the Prop 8 ruling, click here

If you'd like to read the ruling itself, click here.  I haven't read the whole thing yet, but from what bits I have read, and from the exclamations and excerpts erupting from the other end of my living room as well as the analysis I keep seeing, it's an amazing read.  You can skip the mind-numbing legalese and just read the juicy parts, which I'm told (by many friends) really are beautiful, even to the lay reader, from a legal standpoint.

If even that much legalese is too much, try starting with these two NY Times articles -- this editorial, which does some legal analysis of the discrimination angle, and this analysis article, which tackles some of the legal and judicial structure around what happens at the levels of different courts, why and when "findings of fact" do and don't matter, and why some people are so excited about that beautiful legal language I mentioned above. 

Sure, this is going to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, and sure, it might well be going to SCOTUS after that, and sure, Walker (the judge in this case) placed an immediate temporary stay on his ruling pending appeals, so nothing practical changed right away.

But none of those things diminishes my joy.  This legal ruling states very clearly that California's bar to same-gender marriage discriminates irrationally against me, and my sisters and brothers, in a way that can't be justified legally.

It states very clearly something that should be a reminder to all of us when it comes to other issues as well:

“Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and women.” 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Announcing the CPT Boutique on EBay!

Too totally awesome.  If you're looking to simplify your life, get rid of old stuff, etc, and aren't satisfied with your current local options... why not CPT?  
U.S.-Canada: CPT Boutique accepting valuables from donors; all profits support work of CPT
You know that valuable old necklace handed down from your Aunt Agatha that you never wear and your children don’t want?  Or that antique china you think is kind of hideous? Or your sister's stamp/coin collection? Or that designer outfit that doesn’t fit you?

Put it to work for peace!  CPT now has a boutique in the Ebay store, Kathy’s Hideous Little Ego.  CPT will accept any legal, valuable item that can mail easily...

Not only will you be simplifying your life, you will be supporting the peace and human rights work of CPT in Colombia, Iraq, Palestine and in North American aboriginal communities.

Click here for more information...

(Click here for the boutique!)

Fidelity and infidelity in community

Thinking more about Max's article, or, Part B.

I agree with Max about spiritual community and about how true spiritual community helps us be faithful to the Inner Light, the Goddess Within.  Held by true spiritual community, my spiritual life -- not to mention my ministry -- is one not of contraction, or of artificial growth, but one of expansion and natural growth, of ebb and flow, within the rhythms of nature and the cycle of the seasons. Held by true spiritual community, I have been able to do things I have been led to do, but couldn't otherwise do. 

And yet I have been particularly aware again lately of a number of the ways in which both other Friends and other Pagans have asked me to make myself smaller, or have tried to make me smaller, or have asked or demanded that I be unfaithful, so that they might be less uncomfortable, less disturbed, by my life or my witness or the truth of my experience.  Not just ordinary folks I come across in a given day or week or First Day or committee service or Gathering -- but folks whose "job" it is, as a Friend, friend, co-religionist, or co-clergy member, to help me be faithful to myself and to what the Goddess is asking of me.  Folks with whom I am in spiritual community. 

So I am living very much in the awareness right now of the both/and of spiritual community -- of how good spiritual community can indeed help me be more a more faithful Quaker and Witch, and also of how poor spiritual community not only makes it harder for me to be a faithful Quaker and Witch, but actively inhibits me from doing so.  

When we ask each other to be unfaithful because another's faithfulness makes us uncomfortable, we diminish ourselves.  We diminish our own relationships with ourselves and the Divine within us.  We diminish our own integrity.  We diminish our ability to be in relationship with the Divine with each other -- spiritual communion and spiritual community.  We weaken our Meetings, our circles, our Covens, and our larger spiritual communities.  We weaken our ability to build and participate in interfaith groups and dialogue.  We weaken community, small and larger. 

We create an injury to the spiritbody of the Sacred. 

Max Carter, and Quaker parallels with Anne Rice and Christianity?

Today I read Max Carter's recent article in the Washington Post about Anne Rice's decision to leave Christianity in order to remain committed to her relationship with Jesus. 

I was struck by something Max wrote:

Unfortunately, too many Christians - among them many Friends - are caught up in "notionalism," equating faithful Christianity with particular notions about proper dogmas, doctrines, creeds, formulas, rituals, and social norms.

And I couldn't help wondering, How might this be true of Quakerism itself today?  

Are there ways we, as Friends, equate faithful Quakerism with particular notions about proper norms -- proper behavior and thoughts?  

Are there ways we look more at how someone -- ourselves or someone else -- fits the external notion of Quakerism, rather than how they are faithful to the Light within, to Quaker worship, or to Quaker process?

How do we tell if they're faithful to the Light within, Quaker worship, and Quaker process, anyway? 

How do we tell, when we know someone, if they're a "good Quaker" or not?  What do we look for to tell us that? 

I was reminded of something Merry Stanford once said in an article in Friends Journal:

...I yearned so strongly to belong that I strove to be a "good" Quaker, rather than an authentic one.

How do we ask each other to be "good" Friends, rather than authentic Friends?